Bridging the digital divide and supporting vulnerable groups and communities
Sphereon pioneers a transformative digital solution designed to bridge the digital divide faced by vulnerable groups and communities, such as the impoverished, elderly, and displaced individuals.
We’re rapidly moving into a digital-first world, which requires a different set of skills. This creates a real risk that certain groups of people will be left behind. Those with weaker socio-economic backgrounds, in vulnerable personal circumstances – old, sick, incapacitated, homeless – or are already marginalized, like certain minorities, refugees, or internally displaced.
Sphereon received an award from the Next Generation Internet Trustchain project to further develop their Social Wallet initiative.
The Social Wallet initiative enables supports for vulnerable people
by providing free or subsidized goods and services, and at the same time teach essential digital skills.
There is a clear need for solutions that support these vulnerable people and communities in their day-to-day living, and to foster their understanding of key digital skills.
The goal of the Social Wallet initiative is to facilitate their introduction to new digital skills and mitigate the risk of them being left behind. The challenge lies in convincing these underprivileged and marginalized groups to adopt the Social Wallet.
The Social Wallet seeks to overcome this hurdle by providing immediate and practical benefits to the users. By offering free or subsidized goods and services, we will incentivize usage of the application, ensuring the users are not only benefiting immediately, but also learn how to navigate the new digital world with ease.
- Provide and receive social benefits An easy-to-use application to provide and receive specific benefits that they can exchange for goods or services.
- Users learn essential digital skills These are powerful incentives to actually use the application and in doing so learn essential digital skills.
- Privacy-preserving sharing of data The privacy-preserving characteristics of SSI-technology will help these groups to overcome distrust of sharing data with authorities when they learn it is safe.
- Easier sharing of data It will help those who have difficulties in expressing their needs, skills and experience. It will improve inclusiveness and their data privacy.
- Efficiency gains for authorities and sponsors The solution will provide authorities and sponsors with an efficient digital platform to request required information from the user – in a privacy-preserving manner – and to issue benefits.
- Saving operational costs The authorities and sponsors will be incentivized by the cost savings of using a digital platform versus the labor-intensive process of managing these programs.
- Trust that benefits used as intended It also gives them trust that the benefits are indeed used by the intended participants and purpose.
- Supports for local suppliers Suppliers will be incentivized by additional sales, the efficient process, and immediate financial settlement by the authorities or sponsors for goods and services delivered.
- Environmental friendly We will be using a 100% renewable energy hosting provider and environmental friendly (Ethereum/Polygon dPOS EVM) blockchains.
The idea for the Social Wallet is based on a platform we’ve built for the municipality of Weert (NL) in 2018 and that has been operational for several years now. This platform enables Weert to issue digital tokens to low-income families with children and enables them to use these tokens to buy clothing, shoes, or other essentials at participating stores. It enables family members to pay with tokens using their smartphone wallet – just like “regular” customers (no stigma) – and the store to be quickly reimbursed by the municipality as there is no longer a need for invoice verification processes afterwards.
The typical persona in a group consisting of low-income families or other social-economic disadvantaged groups are (wrongly!) believed to have less interest in learning new digital skills. That is at least based on our understanding of the low participation of traditional free- or subsidized learning programs for digital skills now organized by the municipality.
But the results have been great with high participant satisfaction scores. In Weert, we saw that the offering of Social Benefits incentivized almost all people to use their smartphone (>99%) and rated the application with an 8+.
It also incentivized the municipality to broaden the use of the system because it saves them significantly on the cost of running this benefits program and gives them more insight in usage (without knowing which person bought what, when, where).